According to the Taste Tomorrow survey, consumers crave for craft. David Redon is what you would call a true craftsman, after he was trained as a Compagnon du Devoir*. A former Puratos International Technical Advisor and now a Consultant in pastry and chocolate, David assists companies in business development and product improvement. We asked David Redon how he believes the craft trend is impacting the world of patisserie and chocolate.
One of the key trends of the Taste Tomorrow survey is craft. To put it more boldly: consumers desire craft nowadays. But how do you define craft? For David it’s clearly about manual labour. “To me, craft is something that is realised according to the spirit and hands. The most important aspect for me is the person behind the product and his personality. The philosophy and know-how he puts into a product make it something different and unique.”
A tutoring in craft
David’s background is in craftsmanship. When he was 15 years old, he began as a student in patisserie and alternated between school and working in an artisanal pastry shop. At age 17 he left home to start travelling with Les Compagnons du Devoir et du Tour de France, which is an educational path based on human values and craft trade. “During six amazing years full of travelling, hard work and unexpected encounters, I was able to embark on the path of craftsmanship. Right at the end of my apprenticeship at school, I met a guild member of the Compagnons and he explained everything to me about this association. It really sounded amazing: men living together, learning together, supporting each other, managing their life, all for the same goal of becoming a craftsman.” For me as a teenager, it was exactly what I had been looking for, so I jumped right in. I'm still very happy I made that decision, because the values of the Compagnons are today a part of myself. The learning path has been an enrichment on a professional and personal level.”
Open to the public
The Taste Tomorrow research proves that consumers love to see bakery products being created or baked on site. “People like to be able to witness the production process”, agrees David. “This follows the fact that people want to have a better understanding of what they consume. Transparency is key. For example, by seeing the ongoing production process with craftsmen at work, and by showing the effort that is put into the product, the impression of homemade and handmade production is reinforced. This has become truly important for consumers today.”
This goes for bread, but David believes the same applies to chocolate and pastry. “That’s exactly why you see more and more chocolate shops doing their own ‘Bean to Bar’ chocolate. Often in open spaces, ateliers showcase the artisan’s expertise and the very short journey to the consumer. In pastry we also see concepts created around one specific product and made directly in front of the customers – sometimes finished off onsite or decorated on request.”
When a term is used often, it can become subject to inflation. Authenticity is the key factor in this. “I understand that companies are interested in developing a craft-conscious image of their business. It helps make their proposition more relevant and boosts their qualitative image. When doing so it is important to reflect the reality and not use it solely as a marketing ploy. To me, craftsmanship is by definition something that is not industrialised on a large scale. Being a real craftsman today is quiet challenging, resolving to stay small and produce on a human scale in order to be able to do everything by hand and have complete control.”
Craftsmanship can be proven by demonstrating your skill, but it can also be highlighted in the communication around the product. During the Taste Tomorrow research, a lot of consumers stated that they find it interesting if traditions, heritage and history are shared. People like to hear the story behind the product. David agrees: “I think it is a good idea to talk about the product’s heritage. It's an important part of the seduction when you want to consume a product.”
“If I take the example of chocolate, we talk a lot about the Mayans and create stories around their culture and how they used cocoa in ancient times”, David explains. “But those are stories from the past. Talking about chocolate today can also be about the producing country, the workers that grow the cacao plants, and the expertise that makes this product so special and prestigious. Think about the impact of the fermentation on the final taste, for example. That’s a real craft!”
“Within our industry we need to make consumers conscious that behind the products and ingredients are the people who are making them, working hard to create the quality ingredients that form the basis of any finished goods. The veneration of craftsmen is very important in order to motivate future generations to learn a craft.”
The Taste Tomorrow results show that consumers embrace the imperfections of a crafted product – when it looks like it has been created by an artisan and made by hand. Consumers appreciate imperfect finished goods – with a slightly different shape, size and look – as they are the result of manual work. According to David that is exactly the opposite of what we are educating students in schools. “There we focus on producing consistent quality with uniformity and celebrate mastery of the production process.” This is the same for bakers, patissiers and chocolatiers.
“It is actually contrary to new trends driven by social media”, says David. “People associate the homemade appearance of products created by unskilled persons with ‘artisanal’, which is not right. Actually, the real issue is the fact that industrial products are identical because they are made by very precise machines, so people want irregularities to reassure them that it looks more artisanal, that it is made by hand.”
Staying true to craft in a world of technological advancement
Craftsmanship can seem to be in contradiction with the technological advancement of the modern world. But technology can also enhance craftsmanship. According to David, the line is sometimes very thin between artisan and semi-industrial. “Which artisan is honestly still doing everything by hand? Machines such as the dough sheeter, for example, are everywhere. It is something that every artisan uses and nobody sees that as a problem as it doesn't remove the skills of the craftsman. It just simplifies the daily work and enables the professional to spend more time on more dedicated and precise tasks that do require certain skills. Technology is an important advancement in our profession and we should use it intelligently”, David says. “We just need to make sure we always have full control over the process and still create products that reflect the personality of the craftsman behind it.”
Are you curious to learn more about the craft trend? Find out all about it in the craft trend explanation, or discover five inspiring concepts that showcase craftsmanship.